Why should a Christian embark on an examination of rabbinic literature? Despite all the misunderstandings that Christians have about these Hebrew writings, there is still so much beauty to be discovered in the way Jewish people view life and God and the study scriptures. One of the ways to catch a glimpse of the beauty of Judaism is to study Jewish prayer. "In [Jewish] prayer the ultimate mystery of existence is invoked and addressed as if it shared in the life of humanity. There is an outreaching to that which is beyond human reach and a straining to extend the domain of meaning to that mystery." The most famous of all Jewish prayers is the liturgical prayer called the Shema. The Shema has greatly influenced Jewish lifestyle for millennia and also serves as a link to Christian theology when Jesus recited the Shema in response to being asked about the greatest commandment. To fully understand and appreciate the Shema, the best place to start is to investigate what the Talmud says about the Shema, its importance to rabbinic thought, and how this famous prayer relates to the New Testament. .
The Talmud has a rich history of importance to the Jewish people. "If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from the foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice." In order to better understand the context of the Shema, it's best to first comprehend the background and components of the Talmud. The Talmud, named after the Hebrew word for instruction or learning, is considered second to the Torah and is composed as a record of rabbinic discourse regarding the oral law. The Talmud has two major components: "the Mishnah, a book of halakhah (law) written in Hebrew; and the commentary on the Mishnah, known as the Talmud (or Gemarah)." .
The commentaries in the Talmud were written over the course of several hundred years between 200 B.